After 13 months since his first impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump has been acquitted for the second time.
His articles of impeachment were filed under inciting the insurrection at the Capitol last month. In the history of the United States, Trump is the only one to have been impeached twice. Two other former presidents, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, are also on the list of being impeached once.
Impeachment is a process that involves both chambers of Congress and can be used to remove the president and federal judges. As stated in the Constitution, impeachment is plausible with the presence of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”.
The House of Representatives initiates impeachment. A House member can request for an impeachment to begin, or the entire House can collectively agree to go forward. Once this takes place, the House Judiciary Committee must decide if there is enough evidence to move forward with the hearings.
After they’ve passed those steps, articles of impeachment are drafted in the House to be sent to the House floor for a vote. If they receive a simple majority vote to impeach, the trial moves to the Senate where they will vote to either convict or acquit.
In the Senate, a two-thirds majority is needed to convict the official in question. A U.S. president has never been convicted, meaning that no president has ever been removed from office.
How did this impeachment trial differ from prior impeachment trials?
This round of impeachment is new territory, in one way being that Trump is no longer President. The Constitution lays out that “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside”.
President pro tempore of the Senate and current senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy served as the judge in this impeachment trial. Leahy is the longest serving Democratic senator in the current congressional class. Historically, the president pro tempore is the one who presides over impeachment trials of people who are not presidents.
What were the arguments of the prosecutors and defense team?
Trump’s defense team based their argument on his first amendment right to free speech. They frequently discussed that Trump was being targeted by his political opponents. Incitement by Trump was denied and they explained that he couldn’t be blamed by the mobility of his supporters.
The prosecutors heavily focused on the events of Jan. 6. They showed a video, which highlighted some of the dangers that lawmakers and police experienced. It also covered parts of Trump’s speech from earlier in the day that, they argued, was the encouragement factor behind the capitol riots.
After five days of impeachment hearings that took place in the chambers of the insurrection at question, there were not enough votes to convict. It is notable that seven Republicans broke from their party to vote for conviction, making the final tally 57-43.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney from Utah was the only Republican to vote for conviction in both of Trump’s impeachment trials.
Following a speedy impeachment trial, one takeaway is the bipartisanship that came out of the final conviction votes. Historically conservative Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina was one of the seven votes. While many senators believed he was responsible for the riot, their argument revolved around trying a former president.